30 Mar 2020

Medical workers from Canterbury redeployed to fill gaps in Greymouth

7:29 am on 30 March 2020

Medical workers from Canterbury are being sent to work at Greymouth's hospital, which has 21 staff in self-isolation because of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Doctor in hospital corridor

Photo: 123rf

They were treating the woman who yesterday became the first person to die from Covid-19 in New Zealand.

Doctors initially thought the woman had the flu and so staff were not wearing the full Covid-19 protective gear and that's why they're being isolated.

The West Coast DHB said rosters had been rejigged and some staff from Canterbury DHB are helping to fill the gaps.

Its chief executive David Meates said those in isolation are nurses, doctors, phlebotomists and radiologists.

The DHB said there were enough staff to fill the gaps, with some drafted in from Canterbury DHB.

Rural General Practice Network chair Fiona Bolden said death and the fallout of the isolation would have an enormous impact on staff morale.

And she said there would be a knock on effect in the community in terms of fear and uncertainty.

Meanwhile, the Nurses Union said it would be an emotional time for West Coast nurses dealing with the first death from Covid-19 and also having to be isolated from their families.

Head of the New Zealand Nurses' Organisation Kerri Nuku said the situation was a lot for the nurses to deal with and her heart went out to all involved.

She is urging people to respect the lockdown and stay home.

Rural deployment

City doctors and nurses should be redeployed to smaller centres which are likely to struggle with the impact of Covid-19, a rural doctors group says.

Chair of the Rural General Practice Network, Fiona Bolden said the situation at Grey Base Hospital, was unlikely to be the first and a plan needed to be made.

"The staffing level [in rural centres] is so small if they get taken out or even have to go into isolation, not necessarily being unwell themselves - then there's a huge great big gap in terms of provision of services to local rural populations."

Dr Fiona Bolden said there should be city staff available because so much elective surgery had been cancelled.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs